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Tuesday, February 27, 2024
<p>Coach Rhonda Faehn talks to freshman Bridget Sloan before her performance on beam during Florida’s 197.3-194.625 victory against Missouri on Jan. 18 in the O’Connell Center.</p>

Coach Rhonda Faehn talks to freshman Bridget Sloan before her performance on beam during Florida’s 197.3-194.625 victory against Missouri on Jan. 18 in the O’Connell Center.

The wait is almost over.

It has been 265 days since the UF gymnastics team won a share of its second-straight national title, and on Sunday, the group returns to action to begin it’s 2015 campaign.

But coach Rhonda Faehn does not expect the Gators to pick up right where they left off last April.

"It’s a completely different team," Faehn said. "This first competition ... there’s always a question mark. You don’t know how the new athletes will perform, and different lineups and different routines, so our goal going in is always just to go out and compete aggressively, and also to be safe with the new things that we’re putting out there and just to go out and use it as a starting point."

That starting point will be in Muncie, Indiana, where No. 1 Florida travels to take on Ball State, a team that went 2-13 last season and finished fifth out of seven teams in the Mid-American Conference Championship.

For the four Florida freshmen, this meet will mark their first time competing collegiately, and Faehn said she expects all but Grace McLaughlin to compete this weekend.

Junior Bridget Sloan said the experience will be eye-opening for them — as it was for her during her first season as a Gator.

"I think that it always takes one meet," Sloan said. "Once the first meet gets under their belt, I think that they will be able to look back and be like ‘Oh, I understand now.’"

The meet will be the first and last non-conference meet until Florida faces Oklahoma on the road in early March.

It will also be the only time during the regular season when Florida will not compete on a Friday night, something that may disrupt some usual Sunday plans.

"Sunday is a day of rest - this is when I lay in bed and sleep," Sloan said jokingly.

"I think us competing on a Sunday, you know, it is what it is, but I think the craziest thing is it’s a Sunday and we compete again — our first home opener is on a Friday, so that’ll be a little different, it’ll be a quick turnaround."

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Sloan said she has extra reason to be excited for the meet because she is from Indiana and will have a large number of family members in attendance.

Senior Kytra Hunter said she can’t wait to get this first competition started so she and her teammates can shake the rust off and get all the bad routines out of their systems.

"The first meet, my expectation - not just for me but for the team - is to go out there, like I said have fun, get everything out, and that’s what we need to do because it’s always that one meet you need to get everything out," she said.

Follow Graham Hack on Twitter @graham_hack24

Coach Rhonda Faehn talks to freshman Bridget Sloan before her performance on beam during Florida’s 197.3-194.625 victory against Missouri on Jan. 18 in the O’Connell Center.

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